Over the last few years, apps have proliferated on smartphones and tablets and there are now over a million individual apps available for both Apple and Android devices. Although generally only games and entertainment apps receive attention from the press, there are also many apps available for professionals, including lawyers.

It’s worth noting that the term “app” is becoming increasingly blurred, with many mobile/tablet optimised (and dynamic or responsive) websites now being referred to as apps. Although many commentators (myself included) have predicted that native apps will eventually be replaced by HMTL5, as a result of more powerful phones and better designed responsive websites, this remains to be seen. However, the gradual shift may explain the widening scope of the term.

Practice productivity apps

Dropbox from Dropbox Inc, although not specifically geared towards the legal market, is an extremely useful app for any professional working with documents. It’s essentially a cloud storage solution which allows files to be easily stored and shared in a secure online location. If you store your documents in the “cloud” you can access them from any internet connected device, so you don’t have to be sitting in front of your PC and can forget about easily-misplaced USB sticks. Better still, you can share these files with colleagues, improving collaboration.

The BigHand app enhances smartphones with digital dictation functionality. It allows voice files to be recorded using the microphone on your smartphone. These files can then be transcribed by a secretary or using speech recognition software. The app also acts as as a workflow management solution, in case you have multiple dictation jobs on the go at the same time, and lets you view the progress of all the individual tasks. Furthermore, the software can send through email notifications, along with attached transcriptions of completed work.

An alternative dictation app is Dictate + Connect from Grundig Business Systems, which has been especially designed for operation in conjunction with the company’s DigtaSoft dictation product. For each individual dictation task, users can select information such as priority, author, typist, or work type. Multiple sharing destinations can also be selected, including secretarial staff, Dropbox or an external transcription service provider.

Although law firms are increasingly adopting new fee structures, billable hours are still the most common method. Technology can be extremely useful when it comes to keeping track of time spent on various tasks and automatically feeding this information into your monthly billing system.

iTimeKeep from Bellefield Systems, Inc is designed to do just this and the app integrates with a variety of time and billing systems. Furthermore, it’s SSL enabled, crucially helping to keep confidential client information secure.

The Billable Call Tracker from Kohorts focuses on recording time spent on billable mobile phone calls – and a 14-day free trial is available.

Legal reference apps

Carrying heavy legal texts and crumpled print-outs to court is increasingly becoming an inconvenience of the past, thanks to online legal materials. LexisNexis already has a couple of apps for the UK market.

Halsbury’s Legal Terms can be used as a reference point for the meaning of a wide range of legal terminology. Its “Halsbury’s Signposts” feature aims to enhance the understanding of selected terms by referring to legislation where that particular term may have been defined, thereby adding context. Users can also read the important cases connected to the definition and links are provided to related terms.

Also from LexisNexis, On The Case provides access to case law, allowing users to browse cases by topic, or to search for a particular case by name, citation or keyword. It generates results together with a summary and a useful “status signal” intended to indicate how each case has been treated by the courts. Both of these apps are free to download but a subscription to LexisNexis is required to use them.

Another offering from a large publisher is Thomson Reuters’ ProView. This app is basically a form of eBook reader which has been specially designed to manage Thomson Reuters publications. Aside from basic eBook functionality, the software allows bookmarking, text highlighting and the reader can annotate important passages with their own comments. When a particular title is updated, all the highlights, annotations and notes are automatically transferred across to updated edition.

The democratic nature of app delivery means that it’s not just the major legal publishers which are bringing legal app products to market. LawSauce from Natalie Wieland (Legal Research Skills Adviser, Melbourne Law School) and Ruth Bird (University of Oxford, Bodleian Law Librarian) has been designed to help lawyers quickly locate the appropriate online legal resource for specific legal tasks. The app, which only costs £1.99, includes over 8,000 records covering case law and legislative sources for a whole variety of jurisdictions. These are organised by broad geographical region, followed by their jurisdictional location. The records include links to collections of treaties, Parliamentary debates, leading legal blogs and nearly 4,000 online legal journals.

Another independent legal app is iLegal Legislation from Engraved Ltd. It provides access to legislation sourced directly from the National Archives. Although it reflects the revised texts as they appear on the archives, these are not always the most recent revisions, which means the app serves better as an aide-memoire for lawyers rather than an accurate record of the most current law. The cost is £49.99/year or £149.99 for a lifetime subscription, but you can take advantage of the seven day free trial to decide if it’s useful for your purposes.

If you regularly attend court hearings, Court Search from CPD provider Legal Training in conjunction with MillieSoft, could prove very useful. At only £1.99, this app furnishes you with useful details of every court in England and Wales, including addresses, maps, directions, car parking and contact details. Live Crown Court information is provided, along with daily lists for the High Court and above. Details of Tribunals can also be found on the iPhone and iPad versions.

Alex Heshmaty is a legal copywriter and journalist with a particular interest in legal technology, employment law and DIY legal services. He runs Legal Words, a legal copywriting and marketing agency based in Bristol.

Email alex@legalwords.co.uk.

For more about apps for lawyers, see Alex’s ongoing Legal Apps for Lawyers page on Delia Venables’ website.

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